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Airbnb's choice of IPO venue a big win for Nasdaq over NYSE

AIRBNB Inc has chosen to list its shares on the Nasdaq Global Select Market, a win for the exchange after losing high-profile listings such as Uber Technologies Inc to the New York Stock Exchange for years.

The home-rental company didn't disclose any further details of its listing plans in a one-sentence statement Tuesday.

Nasdaq has a reputation for technology-focused stocks such as software and biotechnology, including high-profile initial public offerings such as those for Lyft Inc and Zoom Video Communications Inc. Yet it has frequently lost the competition for mega IPOs to NYSE, including Uber's US$8.1 billion listing last year and Snowflake Inc's US$3.86 billion offering including so-called greenshoe shares in September.

Airbnb said in August that it had filed confidentially with the US Securities and Exchange Commission for an IPO. The company will seek to raise as much as US$3 billion in an IPO before the end of the year, sources have said.

At that price, Airbnb's offering would be the third-biggest on Nasdaq, topped only by Facebook Inc's US$16 billion IPO in 2012 and Mondelez International Inc's US$8.68 billion listing in 2001. By comparison, the New York Stock Exchange has been the venue for at least 23 IPOs exceeding US$3 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

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Airbnb was valued at US$18 billion in April when it raised US$2 billion in debt from investors at the depth of the pandemic. That was a significant drop from its earlier peak valuation of US$31 billion in a 2017 fundraising round.

San Francisco-based Airbnb told shareholders in an e-mail that it was splitting its privately held shares this week, a move that would lower its stock price per share, signalling that it is nearing a public offering, Bloomberg reported.The value of the shares has climbed 10.4 per cent from its last valuation listed in compensation reports to the Internal Revenue Service, according to the e-mail. A source said the increase was from the end of the second quarter.

After the split, the company's common shares were valued at US$34.88 apiece as of Sept 30, according to the e-mail. That value is calculated for tax purposes related to employee compensation.

At that price, the company would be valued at about US$22 billion according to sources. The market value of the firm in an IPO, though, would be based on the existing shares plus newly issued ones. The value of shares would likely exceed that for the price used in the valuation for the shares as of Sept 30. That's because such valuations are based on what the IRS defines as the fair-market value of the shares at that point in time. Typically, they are estimates at the "low-end of a defensible valuation range performed by compliance experts" and are distinct from the calculations relied on by venture capitalists, according to Morgan Stanley's Shareworks, which services corporate stock plans.

Still, the increase of the share price used for tax-related calculation coincides with the rebound of Airbnb over the summer after the spring plunge caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Airbnb bounced back from the pandemic more quickly than it expected, as people sought long-term, rural rentals to escape hot spots and take advantage of work-from-home opportunities. The company began seeing signs of recovery in June, with bookings down only 30 per cent from the same month in 2019, sources have said. That compared with a 70 per cent decline in May from a year earlier. BLOOMBERG

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